Democrats went big last week when they unveiled a new immigration “reform” bill. The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, introduced by 12 Democrat lawmakers in the House and Senate, made it clear that President Joe Biden’s party is not interested in compromise. But it won’t be the details of a bill that is unlikely to pass that most affect the problem of illegal immigration or debates about the issue.
The wholesale amnesty congressional Democrats offered will encourage an already growing surge of people seeking to breach the southern border even if it never passes. Biden’s executive orders are effectively ending enforcement of the existing laws and encouraging both illegal immigration and bogus asylum claims by growing numbers of Central Americans. This is already creating a humanitarian crisis at the border and a collapse of the rule of law that could have devastating political consequences for his party.
Democrats’ proposed changes would fundamentally alter immigration law via an amnesty program that offers all who have broken U.S. immigration law a path to citizenship in eight years. It would also end restrictions on spouses and children joining family members already in the country and greatly expand worker visas vastly expanding the number of foreigners allowed to enter the United States at a time of crushing pandemic-related unemployment.
Just as important, and unlike past efforts at fixing an immigration system that both parties believe is broken, the Democrat package treats border security as a non-issue. In the past, such as the 1986 amnesty bill signed by President Ronald Reagan and the 2013 “Gang of Eight” bipartisan reform package, both sought, albeit weakly, to curtail future waves of illegal immigration.
In contrast, today Democrats are solely interested in facilitating entry into the country by funding improvements at ports of entry. The bill’s only nod in the direction of stopping the influx of illegals is a $4 billion aid package to Central American countries that holds out the vain hope that these nations can somehow fix their internal problems and make staying home rather than seeking opportunity in the United States a more attractive option.
That this left-wing wish list hasn’t a prayer of becoming law was acknowledged by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., one of its principal sponsors. He conceded he is unlikely to persuade the 10 Republicans he needs to vote for his bill to defeat a potential filibuster.
But he and others on the left understand that Democrats’ window of opportunity to pass the left’s wish list on immigration or any other issue may only last until the 2022 midterms, so they might as well not settle for trying to pass more limited bills that will likely be just as difficult to pass.
Yet the effects of this plan go far beyond counting votes. Past offers of amnesty from Washington have always set off a rush at the border of those hoping to take advantage of the prospective change in the laws. This pattern has been repeated since Biden’s victory. As The New York Times reported in December, a surge of illegals began, with the number of those trying to gain entry into the country rising to the highest levels since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
At the time, Biden sought to lower expectations about any swift changes in immigration and asylum policies once he took office. Although he had pledged to make a clear break with the Trump administration’s tough stance, in comments made a few days before Christmas, Biden spoke as if he understood that events were already starting to overtake his desire for a “more compassionate” approach to the issue. Stating that he was worried about the possibility of having “two million people” attempting to cross the border and setting off a humanitarian crisis, Biden said encouraging such a surge would be “the last thing we need.”
But that commendable caution has long since been forgotten. Although White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has warned those thinking about crossing the border illegally that “now is not the time to come,” there’s now an even better reason for them to ignore her. The message they are hearing after a series of policy shifts on enforcement and asylum admission is a lot louder: Biden is now letting people into the United States and telling those whose job it is to stop and deport them to give up.
Hamstringing ICE Agents
In a series of executive orders issued earlier this month, Biden revived the infamous “catch and release” practice in which those caught at the border are allowed to stay in the country where they will await court proceedings that most ignore.
He’s also ended Trump’s policy of forcing those seeking asylum from Central American countries to stay on the other side of the border awaiting hearings. Most of these people are immigrants wanting a better life and claiming that gangs, crime, and poverty have caused them to demand entrance to the United States rather than, as is traditionally the case, having a specific fear of persecution that would justify granting asylum.
These people, whose claims are largely legally unsustainable, are now simply being allowed into the country where they will add to the growing total of illegals (usually estimated at approximately 11 million people but, as a 2018 Yale University study noted may be as much as twice that many due to successful efforts at evading detection) who will be eligible for amnesty under Democrat plans.
Biden has also issued several new regulations that will drastically limit the ability of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to track down illegals who have gone through the legal process and are eligible for deportation. The new rules will prevent those guilty of all but the most grievous of crimes from being arrested.
The list of categories of those given a pass includes those with drunken driving convictions and membership in gangs. Attorneys general from 17 states wrote to protest the decision. It took an intervention from Texas law officials to prevent the release of three child sex offenders who were illegals.
While this result is exactly what the Democrats’ left-wing base wants, some in the party are worried. As Politico reports, Texas Democrats believe the growing crisis at the border being enabled by Biden’s decisions is “a recipe for disaster” for their party in the Lone Star state. Rep. Vincente Gonzalez, D-Texas, who represents a border district affected by the spike in illegals, said the impending catastrophe will cost the Democrats their House majority in 2022.
Taken as a whole, Biden’s measures hamstringing law enforcement, releasing illegals into the country even amid a pandemic, and Democrat plans for wholesale amnesty are understandably encouraging anyone in Central America who wants to come to the United States to try their luck. Americans don’t have to wait to see whether the Democrats’ plan will pass and usher in a new age of open borders. Ending enforcement along with “catch and release” means amnesty for illegals is already here.